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John Setzler

Smoke - What You Need to Know

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I decided to post this video as a sticky in this forum because the questions about SMOKE come up fairly frequently.  I would also love to hear your feedback and discussion of anything I didn't include in this video or other topics that need to be discussed in regards to our application of SMOKE to our cooking....

 

 

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Good video. I'll add a little to the discussion. 

 

When at a store buying wood chunks a good general rule of thumb - the lighter the color of the wood chunks the lighter the smoke taste, the darker the color the more intense the smoke taste. 

 

Examples:

Orange wood - pale yellow color - very mild smoke taste. 

Pecan wood - medium dark brown - medium intensity smoke taste. 

Hickory wood - dark brown - heavy smoke taste. 

 

Color can be used as a general guideline when buying smoke wood. 

 

 

Another thought - soft vegetables, cheese and bread all suck up a lot of smoke flavor. 

 

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Hi John,

 

i liked your method of foil wrapping the wood. I bought chunks rather than chips and now kind of wish I had done it the other way. I'm brand new to the KAMADO game so I have much to learn. 

 

My my question for you is how do you feel about always foil wrapping the chunks?  I think I'd like to do that for two reasons.  One is it seems like that would be a great way to control the smoke intensity (I actually prefer the lightest of smoke flavor and only like smoke flavor on heavy meats like ribs or brisket).  

 

But the the bigger reason I would like to foil wrap is so that I could more easily locate and identify the wood after a cook.  After I did a slow cook of ribs I did some burgers.  The burgers were awful (for me) because they were smoked. Because I was so worried there might still be remnants of the cherry wood I had to closely examine the leftover lump to identify that burnt piece of cherry so the next cook also wouldn't be smokey. 

 

So so do you think always foil wrapping wood chunks is doable?

 

thanks 

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I decided to post this video as a sticky in this forum because the questions about SMOKE come up fairly frequently.  I would also love to hear your feedback and discussion of anything I didn't include in this video or other topics that need to be discussed in regards to our application of SMOKE to our cooking....
 
 

As an old wood smoker guy, I totally agree about getting carried away with smoke. I did it when I first started. You are also right about peoples different palettes . My wife was quick to tell me my Q had too much smoke. I am very careful now using my KJ with wood. I love pecan and oak for my briskets and butts. I am going to try your idea of the packet as I will do Red Snapper with apple for the 4th of July. Thanks John!!! And keep the great videos coming. I know I really appreciate the insight and knowledge you pass along.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I know since i have started using lump charcoal, i do not have to add too much wood to my cooks.  I have been using chips and loving the results.  Now my next batch of lump is oak and not mesquite so things may change.

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Great video, John; thanks. It made me think of the first few lessons I learned as a newbie, especially that you don’t have to see smoke to be smoking. When I picture a kamado, I still visualize it giving off that lovely, aromatic smoke, but the reality is that most of the time, you don't see any.

 

Another point that you covered that I find especially relevant is the principle of starting small and working your way up with the amount of wood/smoke you apply. It's similar to the principle of cooking with salt... if you put in too much, it's too late to peel it back.

 

I've got one corollary to your video to suggest, and that is to cook to your audience’s palate, not just your own. You mentioned that your audience never complained at the beginning, but you were convinced now that you were using too much smoke back then. Getting their feedback is important, if you want them to keep coming back.

 

Finally, I have a few topics on which I would love to hear your views:

  1. The effect of smoke during cold vs hot smokes (absorption rates on things like cold smoked salmon vs the same salmon cooked at 375F on soapstone) or how much is too much for smoking cheese, etc.

  2. Smoking throughout a cook vs. the first few hours. I've read that the first three hours are critical for things like ribs and Boston butts taking on smokiness, and that the last three of a nine hour cook are pretty irrelevant. Would you agree?

  3. Mixing woods… If I throw on two chunks of cherry and two chunks of mesquite, and I wasting my cherry, because it'll be overpowered by the stronger mesquite chunks?

Thanks again, John. You are one of my go-to sources!

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4 hours ago, El_Norteno60 said:

Great video, John; thanks. It made me think of the first few lessons I learned as a newbie, especially that you don’t have to see smoke to be smoking. When I picture a kamado, I still visualize it giving off that lovely, aromatic smoke, but the reality is that most of the time, you don't see any.

 

Another point that you covered that I find especially relevant is the principle of starting small and working your way up with the amount of wood/smoke you apply. It's similar to the principle of cooking with salt... if you put in too much, it's too late to peel it back.

 

I've got one corollary to your video to suggest, and that is to cook to your audience’s palate, not just your own. You mentioned that your audience never complained at the beginning, but you were convinced now that you were using too much smoke back then. Getting their feedback is important, if you want them to keep coming back.

 

Finally, I have a few topics on which I would love to hear your views:

  1. The effect of smoke during cold vs hot smokes (absorption rates on things like cold smoked salmon vs the same salmon cooked at 375F on soapstone) or how much is too much for smoking cheese, etc.

  2. Smoking throughout a cook vs. the first few hours. I've read that the first three hours are critical for things like ribs and Boston butts taking on smokiness, and that the last three of a nine hour cook are pretty irrelevant. Would you agree?

  3. Mixing woods… If I throw on two chunks of cherry and two chunks of mesquite, and I wasting my cherry, because it'll be overpowered by the stronger mesquite chunks?

Thanks again, John. You are one of my go-to sources!

 

 

1.  I don't know.  I don't begin to know how to quantify hot vs cold smoke.  I don't do much cold smoking other than cheese.  Same principles apply... less is more.

 

2.  Every pit master is going to tell you what works for them.  I disagree that meat stops taking on smoke after a certain point.  It may take on less but smoke is a particulate.  As long as it is present it is going to accumulate on the outer surface of the meat.

 

3. Trial and error.  See what works for you.  Remember one of the points i made in the video... smoke taste is the same.  The aroma is the changing factor.  The intensity of the taste is based on the type of wood you use.  Mesquite is more intense than cherry.  You can't taste a difference between the two if the intensity is equal.  For example, you might get the same intensity of smokiness by using 4 chunks of cherry as opposed to one chunk of mesquite.  The flavor will be the same.  

 

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I am new to smoking and decided to try smoking chicken breasts.  I did a green chili and lime salt rub on them let them sit for about five or six hours.  They were smoked at 250 for about 90 min.  The smoke  flavor was good and I was happy about that.  The problem I had was the skin was something close to rubber. I would take Amy suggestions on where I can improve. 

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54 minutes ago, Newtosmokimg said:

I am new to smoking and decided to try smoking chicken breasts.  I did a green chili and lime salt rub on them let them sit for about five or six hours.  They were smoked at 250 for about 90 min.  The smoke  flavor was good and I was happy about that.  The problem I had was the skin was something close to rubber. I would take Amy suggestions on where I can improve. 

I had this same issue with spatchcock chickens; loved the smoke, not so much the bite-through skin. My solution was to smoke them initially at 275F for the first 45-60 minutes, then turn it up to close to 400F for the final 15 minutes. Bear in mind that this will make the meat much less moist, but it crisps things up on the outside a bit more.

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2 minutes ago, Newtosmokimg said:

I will give that a try if it helps get things crispy and not rubbery.    The meat was very moist and I'm happy with my first smoke overall just wanted better skin. 

I agree totally; it's just a bit of a trade-off, especially when you're cooking for someone else, as well. My wife wasn't so impressed with the juiciness of the meat (I was), and she really missed the crispiness of the skin. She prefers her meat well done, and a straight out low temp smoke was just not doing it for her, so I changed it up so that we both got a little more of what we wanted. Experimentation will get you there, my friend.

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John,

 

I've done some searches and can't find references to the size of wood chunks, only chips versus chunks.  I'd like your opinion on the size of wood chunks.  I get the use of chips to scatter in a quick grill of burgers, but is there any advantage to mid-size chunks versus large chunks in a low-and-slow?  Or is it irrelevant?

 

Thanks in advance,

 

AlanT

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